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Online video magazine host Brian Rose teams up with punk singer John Joseph for an unflinching look at triathlon’s effect on two troubled pasts.
Eight years ago, Brian Rose fled New York City. He had worked on Wall Street. He had picked up a drug problem. Rose left the city, flew across the Atlantic, and ended up in London, where he founded the popular online video interview magazine, London Real. After leaving behind his life in the U.S., Rose took a new path. With London Real, Rose interviews who he wants, and he chooses his guests based solely on the fact that he finds them interesting: He casts a wide net with personalities like hip-hop icon Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, multi-billionaire Dan Peña, EDM musician Fatboy Slim, famed anthropologist Dr. Jane Goodall, and journalist Christiane Amanpour among literally hundreds of others. But when Rose invited John Joseph, the on-and-off lead singer for the seminal punk band the Cro-Mags to his studio to chat about Joseph’s views on spirituality, veganism, and endurance sports, he got more than he bargained for.
Joseph invited Rose back to New York City, back to the Lower East Side that had been the punk singer’s haunts for most of his life—and the rise and fall of a younger Rose. For Rose, the trip brought up demons of a life he’d hoped to leave behind.
“You’ve got me, a former banker,” Rose says via phone as he finished post-production work at a sound studio outside of London. “John gets me to go to New York, where I’ve got this dark past. I went to Wall Street after college and became really lost in that city and became an addict and ultimately had a heroin overdose. This is a clean-cut kid who graduated from MIT[…] For me, I came to London and that was getting away from New York or I would have died there. I never told anyone about that, it was a shameful part of my past.”
The contrast between the two men couldn’t be any more stark: Rose’s polished Wall Street days collide with Joseph’s younger life of foster homes, sexual abuse, and arrests. Both were changed forever beneath the shadow of substance abuse. Joseph turned from drug addiction into a love for Eastern spirituality, a plant-based diet, and eventually triathlon. Rose ran from his demons to become a successful online host. Joseph swears every other word; Rose’s level of diplomacy is almost painful.
In New York, Joseph presents Rose with a proposal: Though the two had never met before their first interview last November, the punk singer challenges the online video host to race Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga with him, in 90 days. Despite having almost no endurance sports background and a ridiculous work schedule (Rose shoots between 50-70 episodes per year), Rose accepts. Only later as Joseph berates his new friend about his breakfast meats menu, does he reveal that he wants Rose to do the entire thing plant-based.
The raw result of Rose’s challenge is posted across 10 episodes online, which can be found on London Real’s website. After a U.K. premiere on Sept. 14, London Real is also releasing a feature-length documentary called Ironmind that chronicles Rose’s not-so-pretty quest to finish his first half-Ironman.
“It’s very dark,” Rose says of Ironmind. “The guy who came into my studio, John Joseph, he literally grew up on the streets of New York…He became the lead singer of this crazy punk band, and then he got himself a bouncing baby crack addiction, and ruined his life over the course of many years. He was abused as a child, sexually abused in a foster home, and told that story to the world, and Ironman has really been his therapy.”
Rose himself is no stranger to the extreme. In his next feature-length documentary, Dissolution, he takes ayahuasca—a brew prepared from vines found in South America that causes severe hallucinations, serious physical reactions, and is said to produce a life-changing experience in some participants. But Rose contends that putting himself out there in front of the world is what lets him experience things he otherwise never would.
“There’s a session in [Ironmind] where I do an eight-minute max heart rate test, and I just started crying,” Rose says. “My whole camera crew was shocked. All of these bad memories came back. I was in New York City, and I remembered my girlfriend who left me, my MIT buddy who fired me from my job, all of these people who I let down. For me, the whole training for the race became a symbol of my redemption and a way of me accessing these memories and it became almost my therapy. I didn’t know that was going to happen, and we filmed it all on the fly.”
For episodes of Rose’s adventure in tri, see London Real’s website. Check back for information as Ironmind is released over the next few weeks online. If you’re in London, tickets may still be available for the premiere. Note: Many of these episodes are not suitable for all ages.